As 13-year-old “Avatar: Way of Water” actress Trinity Jo-Li Bliss got ready for her first-ever magazine photo cover shoot back in January, she prepped in the same way she might for a movie role.
That cover was this month’s issue of L.A. Parent, so Bliss closed her eyes and thought of what L.A. feels like as spring tiptoes into being. “The grass is turning green and the flowers are blossoming,” she recalls. The early part of the year is where we “get ready for new opportunities. So, I wanted to bring energy, positivity, love and kindness to this photo shoot, and I hope to bring a similar energy to my artistic endeavors this year.”
She dressed herself in a lightweight blouse featuring a large heart on the front and slipped on a cardigan that reminded her of the sun’s rays and the sky. “I also wanted my hair to have a beachy, breezy vibe. I had a little blue eyeliner to match with the blue stripe on the cardigan and the blue nail polish. Why so blue? Hint, hint: ‘Avatar: The Way of Water!’”
How did you prepare for your “Avatar” character Tuktirey, aka Tuk, to embody her spirit of lightness, curiosity and, even, rebellion?
Tuktirey is the youngest member of the Sully kids. She is curious and kind. She does not see herself as the youngest. She is small in size, but mighty in courage. She wants to be helpful. She has a big heart, and her family is the most important thing to her. She’ll do anything to protect them. She is from a mixed family with parents from different cultures and backgrounds — just like me. Her parents are from two different planets and my parents are from two different continents. Both Tuk and I have siblings a lot older than us, so we both experience a bit of FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) syndrome. Of course, in order to embody her spirit fully, I took quite some training before filming, including [studying] archery, the [“Avatar”] Na’vi language, free diving, Na’vi movement and even how to use a knife! I also went to the Pandora world at Disney World and experienced what it’s like to ride an Ikran on “Flight of Passage” and be in the forest at night on the Na’vi riverboat ride. These trainings helped me not only to become Tuk mentally, but also physically.
Tell us about working with “Avatar” Director James Cameron and the cast.
It was amazing! If any of the young cast end up becoming directors in the future, it will be because we worked with Jim. He is the expert in every department of this big, collaborative team effort and is a role model for us. He inspires me to always keep an open mind and learning attitude. The original cast is such an amazing group of individuals. They are masters of the craft. I feel so comfortable around them and learned so much from them.
What is it like working on this kind of film?
“Avatar” is unique in scale and scope. It is also unique in pushing the technological boundaries of film. From an acting perspective, it is amazingly stark. It is just you and the other actors looking into each other’s eyes, each wearing a hi-tech track suit and sporting a face of dots. We filmed using performance capture. We have 101 dots on our faces and wear a helmet with a little camera attached to it that, together with the dots, captures our facial performance. We wear performance-capture suits that capture our body movements and performance. We also film in a volume, a gray, hi-tech stage with 60-200 cameras on top of it, for the land scenes and in a huge tank that can mimic ocean conditions, like waves.
Over the summer, I had the chance to visit Shakespeare’s Globe [in London]. Acting at the Globe is also intense with very few props and no scenery. The performers rely mostly on one another. I was struck by how similar this seemed to the “Avatar” set. How odd is it that the most hi-tech form of acting has so much in common with the oldest form of acting?
What can you tell us about the next “Avatar” movies?
We filmed “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Avatar 3: The Seed Bearer” at the same time, and filming for [both] wrapped on the same day. I cannot say much about “Avatar 3.” What I can say is that we’ll get to see new cultures, clans and biomes on Pandora.
The name of “Avatar 4” is “The Tulkun Rider.” We already filmed the first act, the first 25 pages of the script. On page 25, the story advances six years. At that point, I will say goodbye to my little self.
You’re also a musician. How did you fall in love with the performing arts?
One of my first vivid memories of having the time of my life performing was when I was almost 6 and my mom enrolled me into this musical-theater summer camp. The production they were doing that year was “Beauty and the Beast.” It was my first-ever audition. I loved it so much that I went back the next year, and I also begged my parents for acting classes.
As an actor, I really appreciate exploring every character’s heart and journey and getting to live their life, step into their shoes. I started learning piano and music theory when I was 6, and I write songs and play piano, guitar and ukulele. As a musician, I journal my life with lyrics and melodies and put my ups and downs, hopes and disappointments into my songs. I get so much joy in performing, either as an actor in my characters’ lives or as a musician writing songs and sharing music.
What are your plans for the rest of this year?
On the acting side, I am looking forward to sharing with you this Christmas animation film “Glisten and Merry Mission,” where I play a young elf, Marzipan, who rescues Christmas! I will be auditioning for new roles, too. I am excited to learn when we’ll be gathering to make [“Avatar”] 4 and 5.
On the music side, I just released my debut album, “Confessions of a Preteen,” a couple of [months] ago. This album is so dear to my heart, and it summarizes the key moments of my pre-teen years.
Learn more about Trinity Jo-Li Bliss on Instagram @misstrinitybliss.